Some Facts about Sequestration that the New York Times Fails to Understand

Sequestration, by the Times’s own admission, “will not stop to contemplate whether [the programs it cuts] are the right programs to cut; it is entirely indiscriminate, slashing programs whether they are bloated or essential.” And yet, the Times pretends throughout its unsigned editorial—I wouldn’t want to put my name on it either—that sequestration represents the only pathway by which center-right policymakers want to shrink government, or at least reduce the growth of government.

This, of course, is a silly argument, but one that has great sway in the epistemically closed world in which the Times finds its most ardent fans. Few, if any small-government libertarians and conservatives would propose to shrink government in the manner that sequestration calls for; they would by contrast be more than willing to reduce government “substantially, but thoughtfully, considering the nation’s needs” via regular order as contemplated by the traditional appropriations process. The problem, however, is that it has been nearly four years(!) since Senate Democrats passed a budget—we have been operating on continuing resolutions since then—and there is no Fiscal Grand Bargain in the offing, especially not with a White House that signaled its intention very early after the November elections to make war with Republicans during the president’s second term, and which doubled and tripled down on those intentions in the inaugural and State of the Union addresses. Because the parties don’t appear to be in a mood to deal, and because any further delay in getting our fiscal house in order might further jeopardize our credit rating, we have the sequester to force matters along. Either the parties get their respective acts together, or we get the meat cleaver.

Am I happy about the sequester? Of course not; it’s a dumb way to grapple with fiscal issues. But instruments like the sequester get designed and implemented because national leaders too often become shirkers of responsibility. If elected officials stepped up and did their jobs, we might have nice(r) things.

Would it be too much to ask that the Times remember all of this? Would it be too much to ask that it refrain from implying—and theTimes does more than imply—that sequestration has come about because too many representatives and senators have worn out their copies of The Conscience of a Conservative and their DVDs of Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural? Would it be too much to ask that the Times recall in its editorials that Democrats joined Republicans in implementing the sequestration mechanism to force themselves and each other to act? And while I am asking questions, would it be too much to ask that the Times remember which president signed the sequester into law? Here’s a hint; he’s the current Democrat-in-Chief.

Some might wonder why I bother asking these questions. After all, the irresponsibility of elected officials is not the only reason why we can’t have nice(r) things. Journalists aren’t exactly setting records these days either.

(Nota bene: Not being the New York Times, I have no problems with my name being associated with this blog post.)